Tens of thousands of junior doctors in England went on strike yesterday, causing major disruption to hospitals in the first walkout of its kind for 40 years.
They are providing only emergency cover during a 24-hour walkout which started at 0800GMT, meaning that several thousand routine operations have had to be cancelled, along with appointments and tests.
The strike is over a new type of contract which the government says will improve healthcare at night and at weekends but medics say would drastically reduce their pay.
“The new contract is not fair, it’s not safe and from the beginning, we as a profession have been bullied, intimidated and threatened by the department of health,” said Florence Dalton, 29, a psychiatrist picketing at St Pancras hospital in central London. She added that many workers in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) felt “exhausted, overstretched and undervalued”.
“Staff are already leaving in their droves,” she said. “Fewer and fewer people are coming into the profession. It makes me so angry.”
There are more than 50,000 junior doctors in England, making up a third of the medical workforce. They are qualified medical practitioners who are working while studying for qualifications for more senior roles.
On Monday, Prime Minister David Cameron appealed to junior doctors to call off what he said was an unnecessary strike which would cause “real difficulties” to the NHS. His government says the reforms are needed to help create a “seven days a week” NHS where the quality of care is as high at the weekends as on weekdays. The NHS has so far postponed 4,000 routine treatments due to the strike.
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